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Monday 15 June 2015

Homily for STM Patronal Festival Mass, 2015

“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Matthew 10: 39

Who better exemplifies this difficult saying of the Gospel than St. Thomas More, our parish patron saint, whom we thank God for today and whose prayers we ask as we seek to offer our lives in our own day for the sake of Christ and his Church.

People often say that we live in such a different era that the stand taken on principle by Thomas More would not be necessary under any circumstances today.  I don’t know if I would want to repeat that in front of Syrian and Iraqi Christians who have come to this country because they refused to submit to a very simple and precise demand made by the radical Islamists of ISIS who demand that people submit or die.

Yet there is a more direct challenge to living the Christian faith in Canada in the 21st century.  The secular juggernaut, an alliance of atheist, secular and narcissistic social attitudes is challenging the Church and her norms because of the creed of relativism that informs the culture of death.

Thomas More had a simple choice for the culture of life based upon his unshakeable  belief that in the Church and her sacraments Christ truly dwells to call us to penitence, to conversion and to sanctification. This was a position that most of his colleagues would not support. It came down to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Did it do what the Church had always said: unite a man and woman for life whether they were king and queen or commoners. St. Thomas More famously refused to take an oath that denied that King Henry was sacramentally married to Katherine of Aragon and that the King could be united to another woman who was not his wife.
Queen Katharine of England (Aragon)
In conscience, St. Thomas More could not deny Christ, the Word of God in the sacrament that binds man and woman in a bond broken only by death. He would not swear the oath and so he had to give his life in order to retain his soul. What could be simpler? What could be more difficult? 

The life and privilege of his family life would have continued unchanged had he taken the oath. He could have continued to hold high office.  He had been Chancellor of England, there was no greater honour for a commoner in the realm.

In our day, when people insist that truth is relative, you know the language . . . You have your truth and I have mine. 

St. Thomas stands as a beacon of light despite all the efforts of the secularists who make such productions as the British series WOLF HALL, a TV series which seeks to make More out to be the villain – quite a stretch when you compare him to the avaricious Thomas Cromwell and Henry VII. 

But we are not here to compare historical figures but to give thanks in the Mass for one who would have done anything and in fact did everything to uphold the sanctity of Christ present in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharist. He supported the souls who refused to bow to the King’s party, which was forcing the people to accept a new and increasingly radical Protestant Reformation very much against their will.   

Prof. Eamon Duffy in The Stripping of the Altars along with others has pointed out that the Protestant cause was forwarded in England almost entirely as a “top down” reformation of the Church in England.  The Protestant movement was led by the monarch and the nobility who were to profit financially by confiscating Church and monastery land and seizing jurisdiction over the church courts.

In our day, we see a liberal judiciary in collusion with legislatures and social engineers forwarding the grab for power of those who serve the dictatorship of relativism. They are gradually raising the pressure on those who hold to the sacramentality of the Church as the way in which we are in communion with Christ.

Legal pressure is now on the seal of the confessional in Ireland and other jurisdictions.
A cornerstone of Catholic faith and practice is under attack. The campaign to change the once universal customs and morality embedded in laws governing marriage and the slow by constant campaign to make the Mass little more than a communal gathering, with no sense of the transcendent, are all parts of a grand design to put humanity at the centre and to deny the transcendence of God and of the moral order that has been at the heart of human flourishing since time immemorial.

St. Thomas More stood in his day for the faith once delivered to the saints and we pray for the grace to stand in our day for the same faith. May his prayers and those of our Lady and the prayers of all the saints guide us in our journey of faith, which has been paved for us, by the feet of the martyrs.

Fr. John Hodgins, 
STM Toronto

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